Gathered around the dinner table, the 6-year-old plops her elbow right into the small pool of chicken broth that had just escaped her bowl. She doesn’t even notice. How do they not notice? As a mom, I seem to have radar for this kind of thing.
She was bathed and pajama-clad before dinner tonight. And she’s already dirty. It’s like the straw that wants to break this mama’s back because it’s the end of the day. And I’m tired. And why can’t anything, anyone, stay clean for 5 whole minutes around here? Five minutes. It’s not too much to ask. But I hold my tongue even when I can’t hold my heart.
I don’t always keep a leash on my expectations but at least occasionally, occasionally, I have the restraint to keep my mouth shut.
Power in the Telling
And the 6-year-old pipes up. “I have an idea! How about we all say something we love about Daddy.”
We have a history of dinnertime games in our home. “Packing for Paris, or Disneyland or wherever (we pack for lots of things)” or “I’m thankful for…”, but this one is new. Something I love about Daddy. They all chime in eagerly, honestly.
“I love that he goes to work when it’s still dark so we can have money.”
“I love that he takes me to the Father-Daughter ball.”
“I love when Daddy plays Indians with me.”
“I love that he does all the things we barely notice, like plowing snow from the driveway.”
And it’s my turn. “Me? I love that he’s selfless. That he loves and serves and gives so much for all of us with so little thought of himself.” I’m immediately convicted by how infrequently I’ve given voice to those words. Far too often we assume people know why they are loved. But so much is gained in the telling.
The kids continue on, around the table once again, while my husband sits somewhat sheepish from their honest praise, and I listened to all that he is to them.
My eyes water a bit. Partly from gratitude. Partly from guilt.
Ninety seconds earlier I almost lit a torch to the whole stinking thing. Six-year-old old splashed her elbow into a puddle of broth and I almost set this all aflame with tired words from this shallow heart of mine that wants clean kids and a clean table, while my heart is where the real mess resides.
I don’t even want to know how many of these moments I’ve crushed. How many of these memories have I’ve torn down with my own two hands, lighting the match and silencing all the beauty, all the richness, all of the abundance in the messiness of life, of them?
My husband is tired. He worked in the middle of the night last night to help someone. He got stuck in the snow on his way and had to call for help, only to go on his way again and be the helper. And a 6-year-old just filled his tank with her beautiful authenticity. That can’t be beat.
Choosing the One Thing
You know, at times I have had a hard time understanding Mary. I’ve had a hard time comprehending her, sitting at her Savior’s feet choosing the “one thing” while Martha scurried about. Martha? I get her. I have mastered the art of a good scurry, but choosing the one thing? What does that look like?
But tonight I saw it – holding my tongue even as I’m still learning to hold my thoughts, my heart. Tonight the one thing was us, gathered around the dinner table. It was letting go of the mess, of the tension, of the tired, to dive into the gratitude sparked by a little one. The one thing was choosing to see, amidst the mess, the beautiful gift taking place at my table – Him dispensing grace through a messy 6-year-old.
God, give me the strength to look beyond the mess, beyond the chaos and see the beauty you are pouring out right here.
Life is ripe for hard. It’s ripe for distraction and exhaustion and frustration. But it’s every bit as ripe for grace, for forgiveness, for His glory displayed in the very moments of our everyday, if only we are brave enough, patient enough, quiet enough to see it and choose it.
Oh Lord, help us see it. Help us choose the one thing.
Katie Westenberg is a wife, mother and writer who is passionate about living life bravely for the glory of our Creator and encouraging others to do the same. She enjoys country living in a small town, time spent with friends and family, and saying YES to adventure. She writes at ichoosebrave.com.